David Ormrod is Professor of Economic and Cultural History at University of Kent
My suggestion from the floor of the conference (sparked in part by several papers attempting to define the scope of Temple’s thinking for our current social order) was that we should recall the thinking of the Christian Left in the 1930s and 40s beside which Temple’s social thought can be seen in clearer perspective. This is especially important today for those who deplore the inequalities created by the dismantling of the welfare state from the 1980s. Although some in the conference and elsewhere see this as creating new opportunities for religious engagement, the former must view this state of affairs with alarm.
Christianity and Social Order opens with the clearest possible affirmation of the Church’s claim to be heard in relation to economic and political issues. Its historical reference points come directly from Tawney, and Temple’s description of the nineteenth-century pioneers of the Christian social movement affirms their significance in recovering the Church’s moral authority and commitment to social justice, in retreat since the post-Restoration decades. Since the late eighteenth century, urbanisation and industrialisation created conditions demanding social reform, but until the 1840s, the primary concern of reformers was still for individuals (pp. 1-10).
From the 1880s to 1945, we can identify a developing Christian and socialist convergence, and Temple’s contribution is best understood in this context. In 1937, Clement Attlee wrote, ‘…probably the majority of those who have built up the socialist movement in this country have been adherents of the Christian religion – and not merely adherents, but enthusiastic members of some religious body. There are probably more texts from the Bible enunciated from socialist platforms than from those of all other parties.’ The Malvern conference of 1941 marked the high point of these convergent forces, and as they have dissipated, something of an ethical void has opened up in our society.
During the interwar years, more than a dozen Christian socialist societies and movements flourished in Britain, with the express purpose of exercising a prophetic and vanguardist role within the churches and in society at large. We can identify two main tendencies within and amongst them. The first, that of the majority, was represented by Temple and Tawney focusing on the idea of an ‘ethical state’. The second and more radical approach, emerging during the late 1930s, was most cogently expressed by John Macmurray, deriving from his humanist-inclined philosophy and his encounter with the Marxist-inclined Christian Left and its publications. Victor Gollancz, John Lewis, Richard Acland, Stafford Cripps and John Collins played prominent roles.
The thought of the Christian Left developed at some distance from progressive Anglican social thought and its claims on a sense of British national identity. The incarnational principle, in Temple’s case, led to a conservative view of the church: the visible church was seen as the preferred instrument for inaugurating the kingdom of God. Furthermore, the relationship between the established church and the state had a special significance since the nation state was also seen as a divinely established means of bringing forward the kingdom. Hence the duties of Christian citizenship formed an important theme. As John Kent has pointed out, this rested on an Aristotelian view of politics in which state and society were identical – the ‘oneness of the world within the city’s walls’, the polis. For Temple, British national identity required a bonding religion, Anglicanism. Tawney, however, was much less optimistic about the potentialities of the Church of England which, he felt, ‘remains a class institution, making respectful salaams to property and gentility, and with too little faith in its own creed to call a spade a spade in the vulgar manner of the New Testament.’
Macmurray and his circle envisaged a moral community which transcended the boundaries of the nation state and the churches. Christian consciousness, he realised, was deeply embedded in society, extending well beyond the visible church. Above all, it was expressed in personal relations: the nature and quality of personal relations was the touchstone of the ethical society. By 1944, Temple saw the purpose of God as ‘the development of persons in community’, a formula very close to the former’s thinking. Macmurray, in turn, moved closer to the earlier concerns of mainstream Christian socialism as he came to realise the full extent to which German fascism had succeeded in asserting a rational control of society as a whole. Wartime debates within the Christian Left reflected a loss of faith in social systems which rested principally on rational planning and took a more humanistic turn. By 1945, the moment had arrived to translate the consensus achieved at Malvern into a new kind of ethical state.
This is the second of two reflections on the 80th Anniversary Conference of Christianity and the Social Order
Victoria Turner, PhD Candidate, World Christianity, University of Edinburgh
This conference was jointly organized by the William Temple Foundation and the new Centre for Anglican History and Theology at the University of Kent, hosted in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral. The conference sought to both historically contextualize and reflect on Temple’s most famous publication, Christianity and The Social Order and also question its and Temple’s relevance for our world today.
The first paper was delivered by Professor Kenneth Fincham from the University of Kent. Professor Fincham compared William Temple to William Laud who was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 and executed in 1645 with the falling of Charles I. The biggest similarity of both Archbishops was their conviction that the church should absolutely be involved in political affairs. Whereas this legacy has been avidly remembered for Temple, it has fallen away from the memory of Laud, receiving only a brief mention in his entry to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
I appreciated this paper, but questioned its applicability in this conference, especially at the start of the day. Fincham took for granted that the audience were already Temple “experts” and the concentration was on Laud. I was hungry and eager to begin learning about Temple at our 10am start, so although this scheduling made sense chronologically, conceptually, it was strange to begin a conference that celebrated Temple by not focusing on Temple, especially for a non-conformist already feeling a little out of place in a very Anglican setting.
The second paper was more what I imagined would be presented at the conference. My interest in Temple comes from his social justice work, especially its roots which was formed when he was studying in Oxford and volunteered with the University settlements and also his ecumenical work. Being a student of mission at the University of Edinburgh, the impact of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910 where Temple was a young steward is continuously reflected on. Part of my PhD is exploring George MacLeod who started the Iona Community in Scotland in 1938, and MacLeod was inspired by the Toc H movement, founded by Tubby Clayton during World War 1, which also finds its roots in the University Settlement movement. I enjoyed Simon Lee’s careful recounting of how the mission of Tonybee Hall changed as the ‘leaders’ understood their working-class context better and how this incarnational theology and emphasis on listening to the poor continued in Temple as archbishop.
Elaine Graham blessed us with a superb paper that questioned how Temple would react to today’s questions surrounding gender and sexuality. Firstly Graham outlined the huge social shifts that have occurred since 1942 and warned of the dangers of too easily applying Temple’s ideas to our context. Yet by highlighting his incarnational theology, middle axioms idea and insistence on listening to the marginalized (for the elites to make the decision on their behalf) she explained how she believed Temple would be affirming of creating spaces for discourse, encouraging the theology of common grace and perhaps even following Susanna Cornwall’s idea of going back to virtue ethics and asking generally, what is it about a marriage that as Christians we value. Jeremy Carrette stayed in our context of today in the next paper but applied Temple to our climate crisis. Temple was clear in his stance that land was not a mere resource and should be used for personal profit, only for the common good. Carrette successfully argued Temple in 1942 pushed us to regain our reverence for the earth.
The third panel of the day was entitled ‘Church, Society and Race’ and for me were the least academically stimulating. Robin Gill had an interesting concept in posing Temple and Desmond Tutu as both ‘speaking truth to power’ in their own time but I felt the omission of an acknowledgement of their incredibly different lived experiences clouded the paper and made me question the applicability of the comparison. Whereas Tutu had to ‘speak truth to power’ to fight for his humanity to be recognized, Temple chose to spend time with those less fortunate than himself and learn how to alleviate their position (not without paternalistic undertones) without ever having the threat of losing his privilege. The truth cost Tutu a lot more, across a much larger distance. Sanjee Perera’s paper was given as more of a sermon, where her passion for her job in racial justice for the Church of England came across but it felt like Temple quotes were slotted in here and there rather than structuring her talk on how Temple relates to her work. The question that interrogated Temple’s relationship with Beveridge, who was a member of the Eugenics Society I thought was important, especially as it pushed another conference member to talk about Temple’s work with the Jewish Community during the war and eventually setting up today’s Council for Christians and Jews.
Chris Baker explored how to build back society in our post-pandemic times and wondered how Temple’s elitist leanings and trust of institutions clash with our culture, especially among the young today. Finally, Stephen Spencer gave an excellent talk that explored the collaborative effort that made Temple’s ‘Christianity and the Social Order’, including it being peer-reviewed by Keynes, Tawney and other academics. He also argued that this book represents just one moment in an important wider context of consultative methodology that engaged theology, industrialization, economics and politics.
The conference speakers and topics were varied but the audience was not. It was overwhelmingly white and male despite the William Temple Foundation being overtly progressive and contextual and a number of the conference papers explicitly being contextualized for today. The audience were generally church historians or theologians interested in Temple, and although receptive to applying him for today, generally wanting to explore his theology and legacy. The attempt to merge a historical conference with a public theology conference, inviting both Temple experts and not, created in my opinion a confused atmosphere but still a hospitable and lovely one, especially felt in the visit to the archive. I quickly felt able to ask questions and by around lunch brave enough to talk to participants in break out spaces.
80th Anniversary of the Enthronement of William Temple, Canterbury Cathedral Archive and the BBC Recordings from 23rd April 1942
Jeremy Carrette and Cressida Williams
Political statements by Archbishops of Canterbury have long resulted in debate about the relation of the church to politics and it seems appropriate, in the current context of the government response to Archbishop Justin Welby’s ethical concerns with government asylum plans, that we should recall the 80th anniversary of the enthronement of an archbishop that demonstrated a profound commitment to Christian ethical engagement in social and political issues. Archbishop William Temple was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on the festival of St. George on 23rd April 1942.
According to Dominic Bellinger and Stella Fletcher’s study of the history of archbishops, The Mitre and the Crown (Sutton Publishing, 2005, p.166), Archbishop William Temple was viewed as “probably the most actively political of the modern archbishops of Canterbury”. His active contribution to the creation of the welfare state, alongside William Beveridge, can be seen in his famous text Christianity and Social Order (1942), on which the Centre for Anglican History and Theology and the William Temple Foundation hosted a recent conference at Canterbury Cathedral, to reflect on its continuing importance 80 years on from its publication. Christianity and Social Order first appeared with William Temple named as Archbishop of York, but within months this successful text appeared with the new title of Archbishop of Canterbury. If Boris Johnson was concerned with his Archbishop’s political statements, Winston Churchill, as noted by various commentators, was not happy with the appointment of William Temple and his social agenda: see John Kent William Temple (Cambridge, 1992) and Stephen Spencer William Temple: A Calling to Prophecy (SPCK, 2001). However, as the letter recommendatory of George VI, written on the 1st April 1942, confirms, he was appointed as the ‘new primate of all England’. This official document, with its royal stamp, is held in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library (document CCA-DCc/SV1/1942/27) and reveals the importance of the Canterbury Cathedral archive for the key historical documents of William Temple’s enthonement and the events surrounding this historic moment.
While the official papers of William Temple as Archbishop of Canterbury are held at Lambeth Palace Library, alongside other papers deposited after his death by his widow Frances, the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library holds material relating to the translation of Temple to the See of Canterbury, to his formal election by the Greater Chapter of the Cathedral, to his enthronement, and to his funeral. There is also a set of manuscripts of sermons delivered at the Cathedral, and broadcast on radio, between Palm Sunday and Easter Day 1942, just after his appointment and just before his enthronement. These were presented by Frances Temple to the Cathedral. She notes in a covering letter how glad her late husband was “that the first time he spoke to the country on the radio after his appointment to Canterbury he should be speaking on a purely spiritual subject”. However, his Easter address of the 5th April 1942, revealed a spiritual message that would bridge the ethical life with the political. He stated in this address that the call to Easter was not a call to “easy assurance of enjoyment in a heaven of selfish happiness” but rather a place “where love and self-giving are made perfect”. Temple’s spirituality was one grounded in a vision of ethical and social concern, through overcoming the self-centred approach and building a life of loving and compassionate relation to the world.
The Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library also holds the old BBC recordings of the Enthronement, 10 x 78rpm disks (CCA-U202/2), now digitalised by the BBC. Listening to these recordings and viewing the Pathé film – an enthronement “filmed for the first time in history” – you are taken back to the particular historical context of an Archbishop appointed during the war. The commentary informs us the windows are boarded up and precious glass removed and stored away; the austerity of the war time ceremony is evident. We hear evocative descriptions of the statue of Frederick Temple, the 95th Archbishop of Canterbury, echoing the significance of William Temple as the first son of an Archbishop of Canterbury to be enthroned into the same position and become the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury. The listener is also struck by the powerful liturgical singing. Though there were some day choristers living locally in Canterbury who continued to sing throughout the war, the boy choristers were returned from evacuation in Cornwall for the Enthronement. (They would also be sadly returned for William Temple’s funeral a few years later in 1944.)
The BBC recordings of the Enthronement of William Temple presents the “main part of the ceremony and his Grace’s address which we (the BBC) had the privilege of recording for listeners at home and overseas”. It is significant that there were representatives of world churches, including the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches; William Temple worked tirelessly for ecumenical unity and his address also affirmed not only unity and fellowship of the Anglican Communion, but also recognised and valued “traditions other than our own”.
Along with the “Instrument of Proceedings”, a document made by the Notary Public to formally record the event in writing (also held in the Canterbury Cathedral Archive and Library, see CCA-DCc/SV1/1942/29), the eloquent descriptions of the BBC recording capture the moment of when Temple “moves down the crimson steps from the high-altar towards the [marble] episcopal throne” of St. Augustine, the first Archbishop in 597. After Archbishop Temple kisses the book of the gospels we listen to the making of the corporal oath. With the recorded crackling sounds of rumbling chairs and echoing coughs, we then hear how the Archdeacon takes the Archbishop by the hand and places him on the episcopal throne and he is “inducted, installed and enthroned” into the archbishopric.
Disks 6-8 of the BBC recording, record the Archbishop’s address. This was published in a 1944 collection of Temple’s addresses and talks, The Church Looks Forward (Macmillan, 1944), but the recording brings it alive, particularly the “few personal words” expressing his “sense of complete inadequacy” in following those he has known. Here he opens personal reflections on the Archbishops of Canterbury he knew in his life: Edward White Benson (“wise stateman and true priest”), his father Frederick Temple (“the chief inspiration of my life”), Randall Thomas Davidson (“a second father to me”) and his predecessor Cosmo Gordon Lang (“most wise elder counsellor and ever more intimate friend”). As he openly affirmed: “To follow such men is daunting”. But the force of the enthronement service as a “dedication of the Church, the nation and ourselves to the purpose of God” overcomes these feelings of inadequacy. It is that conviction that shapes the moment of the enthronement. Addressing a nation facing the horrors of war, he felt that St. George’s day was appropriate for the enthronement, because it held the sense of service and martyrdom in the national identity at a time of world war. He also spoke of the Church World Conferences (in Stockholm, Lausanne, Jerusalem, Oxford, Edinburgh, Madras and Amsterdam) carrying the ecumenical and social concerns of Christianity. The themes of peace, faith and unity and, above all, that ethical devotion to following the “purpose of God” framed the address. The address revealed the central focus of his work in bringing Christian principles to shape the national agenda. The enthronement of William Temple was recognition of his lifelong leadership in the church and his unique ability to bring a spiritual and political voice into the world.
80 years after the BBC recorded the events of William Temple’s enthronement, it is striking that the Research Director of the William Temple Foundation, Professor Chris Baker, was asked to comment on BBC World News about the response to Justin Welby’s challenge to government and explain why Temple is relevant to this discussion. Professor Baker explained that for Temple it was “the duty of the church to shape society, and the way society thinks, in accordance with the principles of God”. Temple shows how the spiritual and political are joined together. The grand ritual of Temple’s enthronement and his Holy Week addresses, preserved in Canterbury Cathedral Archive and Library, signal how Temple’s vision roots his normative Christian ethical values in the theological purpose of God. It provides a moral dimension beyond history to ground the interventions and actions within in human life. The 80th anniversary of William Temple’s enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury is an historical event that is not only wonderfully preserved in word, sound and image, but one that continues to demonstrate the importance of uniting the spiritual and political in the face of the challenges of war and social injustice.
A few weeks ago, the William Temple Foundation team were honoured to visit the London office of Professor Craig Calhoun, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. A fascinating conversation captured Prof Calhoun’s thoughts on contemporary debates in religion and public life, as well as offering a chance to learn more about his background and his experiences as an eminent academic.
A series of videos capturing the conversation will be posted over the coming weeks, but for now, here is Prof Calhoun’s preview of his forthcoming keynote lecture on religion, government and the public good. The lecture will be delivered at ‘Reclaiming the Public Space: Archbishop William Temple 70th Anniversary Conference’ on Monday 10th November. Book tickets here.
William Temple helped to found the modern welfare state, but what would he make of it today? If we re-examine his seminal Christianity and Social Order in the light of the development of the modern welfare state, it seems clear that Temple would be deeply disturbed and disappointed. Not disappointed with the idea of the welfare state, but disappointed with what we’ve done to that idea.
Temple took his readers back to the very heart of the Christian tradition, and explored the kind of society that Christians should help build. His vision for the welfare state is a Christian vision, but it is also a vision that welcomes others; he claims no special place for the Church or for Christians. Instead, at its heart is love – love in the form of justice. Temple recognised that justice gives us rights and duties, but that we must also work to fulfil them in a spirit of equal citizenship. Our deeper purpose must be to ensure that we each have the freedom to develop to our full potential and this means creating communities with the necessary securities and opportunities to enable that development.
But, while Temple’s vision certainly helped inspire the creation of the welfare state, it is often difficult to see the relationship between that vision and the reality of today’s system. The early achievements of the welfare state are too often taken for granted, and we have moved into an era of ‘welfare reform’ when the word ‘reform’ has become code for ‘attack’. Politicians, journalists and the general public now accept without question a whole series of falsehoods or distortions:
“Welfare spending is unsustainable”
“Too many people are on benefits”
“Welfare fraud is a major problem”
“Public services need to be more efficient”
The welfare state has become an object of scorn and there are few prepared to provide it with a robust defence. How has this happened? How has such an important achievement become so problematic?
One culprit may be the resurgence of liberalism: the philosophy of individualism, consumerism and the growing power of business or ‘the market’. Yet, while there is some truth in this, there is a danger that blaming liberalism is too simplistic. If we are not careful we simply rehearse the hollow debates, from both the left-wing and right-wing, which have left us in this situation. We need to think more deeply about the kind of welfare state which is needed.
This is a problem that goes right back to the birth of the welfare state. For, while Temple’s vision certainly inspired its formation, the welfare state was rarely informed by that vision. The systems that were put in place in the 1940s, and in the following years were well intentioned, but they were also deeply paternalistic, meritocratic and bureaucratic. The design of the welfare state was somewhat blind to citizenship, to rights, to the value of diversity in our communities or to the full potential of every human being.
Keynesian economics helped to assure people work; but this was work as defined by the state and big business. The benefits system provided people with a minimum income, but it stigmatised those who needed it. The value of out-of-work benefits is now so low that the UK has become the third most unequal developed country in the world. Even those institutions, like schools and the NHS, which were designed to promote equality, are organised to put Whitehall in power. The UK has the world’s most centralised welfare state. One symptom of this extreme centralisation is the constant reorganisation of public services, each according to the latest political fad, yet each without any demonstrable benefits.
At a deeper level many of these problems may be constitutional. Today, as the country wrestles with ‘austerity’ we find that cuts in spending are actually targeted at the poor and disabled people. For instance, there are now 25% fewer people receiving social care (support for disabled and older people) than there were five years ago. Mortgage rates (which affect the wealthiest) have been slashed, but the poor are forced to rely on the likes of Wonga. The most likely explanation for this is not the wickedness of politicians, but the fact that the votes of the poor are much less important than the votes of those on middle incomes. The political rhetoric of the ‘squeezed middle’ is an inversion of the truth – politicians pander to the middle, because this is where elections are won or lost. We live in a “medianocracy” – a land where the median earner is king.
We are in grave danger of seeing much of what Temple and the Church worked to achieve being undermined and lost. There is very little sign that modern politicians or voters understand the need for equal citizenship; instead it is increasingly acceptable to buy your way to the front of the queue. We have forgotten that human beings are wonderfully diverse, and that all of us have a God-given potential to develop; instead we meekly accept the Government’s presumption that it can dictate the purpose and methodology of our children’s education. Instead of building welcoming and diverse communities together, we have subsidised the development of institutional services, like residential care.
But this is why there has never been a better time for the Church to act. When party political structures have evolved so that they can no longer protect minorities or the vulnerable, then the Church must speak out. When thinking is dominated by out-of-date and bankrupt concepts, then the Church must speak afresh the language of love and truth. When communities have lost heart and have begun to accept the fate handed down to them by the powerful, then the Church must help people to find renewed strength.
If William Temple came back today to examine the welfare state I am sure he would challenge the Church to remind people why we need the welfare state, and he would encourage us once again to imagine what kind of welfare state would really be true to the Christian vision of love, truth and justice.
The title is taken from the bracing, and stark, prognosis offered by Steve Chalke MBE, founder of the charity Oasis UK, as he concluded a public lecture at theUniversity of Chesteron ‘The Progressive Power of Religion in the Public Sphere’. Steve’s words, those of a highly successful social entrepreneur (he repeatedly quipped that Oasis has a higher budget than many Local Authorities) offer a profound challenge. How can we salvage something of the spirit and ethos that created the welfare state and reinstate that ethos back into public life and the fabric of our localities? This clarion call, whilst offering many opportunities, also holds many dangers.
The twin policy drivers of localism and austerity are creating new spaces of hands-on engagement and partnership between local authorities and local communities, with faith-based organisations often taking a lead. As I outline in my book The Hybrid Church in the City – Third Space Thinking faith groups are also pioneers in innovative forms of social care and community empowerment, and often where they lead, secular agencies will follow.
The faith sector, as Steve Chalke showed, can also take advantage of the neo-liberalisation of the welfare state by pitching for procurement contracts to run key public services in areas such as housing, health and education. Oasis now runs over forty primary and secondary schools and several housing and care schemes for at-risk young people and the homeless. A key welfare innovation that faith groups are offering is the concept of the ‘hub’ or co-ordinating centre for a series of other outreach activities aimed at increasing local resilience and social capacity. These hubs include children’s and youth work services, debt advice and credit unions and foodbanks.
As Steve himself remarked, this local engagement grows the church as well as the community. New members of Oasis churches are asked if they would like to volunteer on one of many community programmes. It is an invitation to get stuck in, to discover God (if you like) in direct, no-strings attached service for one’s fellow citizens. And it is the prioritisation of orthopraxis (doing the right thing) over orthodoxy (believing the right thing) that lies at the heart of so much faith-based engagement since the financial crash of 2008. This stripping back of the idea of ‘church’ to bare essentials of praxis and forms of civic engagement that creates a sense of hope also brings to life other significant ideas about how we construct a new expression of politics.
These new, emerging political spaces are based on shared concerns and a new openness to engage with others who are shaped by different worldviews – including other faiths, but also across the faith/no religion divide. As I have written elsewhere, ‘The reality is that increasing numbers of leaders and citizens are more open than ever to allowing space for progressive (i.e. outward–looking) religion to deploy its wisdom, experience and resources. Not only in leading debates, but also acting as political hubs for emergent networks and affinity groups committed to creating flourishing localities. It is a two-way, dialogical model of the public sphere where wisdom, resources, expertise and political leadership is shared – and not a one-size-fits all model where one version of the truth dominates and suppresses any others.’ What is not to like?
And yet there are grave dangers associated with this emerging post-welfare/localism economy and politics in which the faith sector finds itself increasingly centre stage. Firstly, there is the issue of the lack of resources in many faith communities. Then there is the ecclesial equivalent of postcode lotteries. Not all religious leadership is as dynamic and progressive as that exemplified by Steve Chalke and other ‘new evangelicals’, and not all faith groups can aspire to fill the huge gaps in social care that are now opening up. Especially when we factor in the knowledge that austerity budgeting is scheduled to last for the rest of the decade.
But there is a deeper danger than even these trends. The success of Oasis, and other faith-based organisations in providing ‘cradle to grave’ welfare in some of our local communities, normalises the idea that the state is no longer there to protect its citizens and provide the economic and social framework by which we have the basic rights and needs that allow us to flourish. The modern state has become the stumbling block to the people, not its friend and enabler. It is a world away from William Temple’s vision of the state which he saw in terms of a covenantal relationship with its citizens based on mutual moral interaction.
Based on Biblical notions of divine covenant, this relationship or bond between the state and its citizens was a prophylactic against a decline in the ethical ordering of economic and political life; a decline that would either lead to political forms of totalitarianism or to individualised forms of life. His moral ‘contract’ was designed to safeguard a communal form of life that creates the right conditions for human fulfilment. In return for the guaranteed basic needs laid out in his famous six middle axioms articulated in Christianity and the New Social Order (i.e. access to universal healthcare, education and housing irrespective of income or status), the citizen had the moral duty to improve their own material and non-material standards; to increase the human capital investment already provided by the state. But this self-improvement was not to be done in a selfish or solipsistic way. Rather all citizens (but especially Christian citizens) had the moral duty to undertake politically engaged and ‘responsible’ forms of citizenship so that the investment of that state in its own people was distributed evenly at the local associational level, in the form of membership of institutions designed to strengthen civil society such as resident groups, trades associations, trades unions, faith groups, adult learning groups, and parent teacher associations.
Now clearly Temple’s vision of the relationship between the state and the citizen, and its relevance to the present age, is up for debate, and one we will be precisely addressing at ourforthcoming conference commemorating the 70th anniversary of his death.
But the real danger for the church, as one of these intermediate distributive bodies, is that in the absence of an increasingly unaccountable state we end up propping up a form of political economy that is decimating the life chances of so many of our citizens. A recent University of Bristol report highlights the continuing social inequality in the UK and the its shocking impact on everyday life: 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat the home; more than half a million children live in families who cannot afford to feed them properly; 15% of all workers are still trapped in poverty by low wages.
It falls to us therefore, not simply to plug the gaps in welfare spending but to transfer our social and spiritual capital into real political power: to articulate a better alternative based on the rebuilding of national and regional infrastructures providing proper protection and a decent life for everyone; especially for those who are most vulnerable. Let’s not call it the welfare state – let’s call it the enabling state.
We’re delighted to announce details of a high-profile conference marking the enduring legacy of Archbishop William Temple, seventy years after his death. ‘Reclaiming the Public Space’will explore the role of religion in contemporary public life, asking what role can Christianity – and all faiths – play in developing a just society.
A fantastic guest list of speakers includes Prof Craig Calhoun (LSE), Prof Linda Woodhead (Lancaster) and Lord Raymond Plant (KCL).
Highlighting lived experiences and faith-based action, interactive workshops will be led by staff from the Trussell Trust, the Eden Network, Evangelical Alliance and William Temple Foundation.
The conference will be held at the People’s History Museum, Manchester on Monday 10 November, and will bring together academics, clergy, community activists, and policy makers to learn from one another.
A full programme and further details can be found on the conference page of the Foundation’s website.
Book now: Tickets are £35 with a limited number of student tickets available for just £10.